Dear Ladybug Tools community!
Ladybug Tools turned 9 years old last Thursday! I can’t believe we are approaching nearly a decade in operation. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that Ladybug Tools would become the success it is today when I cobbled together a few components, named them Ladybug, and released a Grasshopper plugin. It has been a humbling and exciting journey! I’m very happy to write this anniversary post to celebrate what we have achieved and share some great upcoming news with you!
Especially in an era where the world of building simulation is cluttered with oversimplified solutions and over-exaggerated accomplishments, Ladybug Tools stands by its humble roots. We continue to empower our community to develop better solutions that answer questions at any scale or project phase, from pre-design to post-occupancy. Thank you for making Ladybug Tools the Ladybug Tools that is!
So much has changed since I last wrote an anniversary post in January 2019.
In 2018, shortly after forming Ladybug Tools LLC, we realized that our biggest challenge was going to be finding a balance between running a successful company and supporting a thriving open source project and community. It was not an easy problem. We considered different options and tried a few until we came up with a clean separation between Ladybug Tools as an open-source project and Pollination as a commercial product. The transition was smooth and effective! Ladybug Tools is now stronger and better than it has ever been before and is feeding into the Pollination ecosystem.
Before I talk about Pollination, I’d like to celebrate the release of the Ladybug Tools 1.0 and the follow-up releases. What used to be a Grasshopper-only plugin has now transformed into one of the most comprehensive collections of Python libraries that can be executed from virtually any operating system or application. This change not only gave us more robust, efficient, and cross-platform Ladybug Tools plugins for Grasshopper but also initiated exciting projects like Ladybug for Blender.
Today, you can use Ladybug Tools for anything and everything related to environmental building design and simulation. Use it for weather data visualization or advanced comfort studies. Model a single room or an entire city. Do it all for free. It all comes down to a willingness to learn about the details of the software and incorporate your findings into your projects.
The other outcome of Ladybug Tools 1.0 was paving the way for the birth of Pollination!
Pollination originally started as a project to develop a cloud computing platform for running large parametric studies and long-running simulations faster but, over time, it evolved into an ecosystem of interconnected tools, of which a cloud computing platform is just one part. Today, the goal of Pollination is to streamline all aspects of your journey to acquire actionable data for your environmental design questions.
Rather than developing a centralized “one-stop-shop” tool, we have taken an ecosystem approach in designing Pollination. We have built a web-based, collaborative hub with cloud computing resources, customizable simulation recipes, and utilities for result visualization. These all connect to CAD plugins for Rhino, Revit, and Grasshopper. While each entity in the ecosystem can define, execute, and visualize simulations on its own, Pollination allows for unrestricted movement between tools and platforms without data loss.
Similar to Ladybug Tools, one of our guiding principles for Pollination is designing a platform that also allows beginners to grow into experts. We believe that to make a meaningful impact on collaboration in the building industry, we need products that are loved by experts and beginners alike. We have done this successfully with Ladybug Tools and Pollination will do the same on a more accessible platform and on a much larger scale.
During 2021, we released the Pollination cloud computing platform, Grasshopper plugin, Rhino plugin and Revit plugin. After several months of beta-testing, the tools are ready for the first commercial release but you still have a few weeks left if you like to try them in beta. You can run large parametric studies on Pollination in a fraction of time, use the Rhino plugin to quickly build, fix and QA/QC large models, and use the Revit plugin to extract clean analytical models from Revit quickly. You can keep working inside the Pollination and Ladybug Tools ecosystem or export your model to other platforms like IES-VE.
Most recently, we introduced Pollination apps that take advantage of all the technologies that we have developed and bring them closer to the users. Technically, only one click away and with the option to load them from inside Rhino and Revit! If you like to learn more about the apps you should join our upcoming user meetup this Thursday.
One of the most frequently asked questions during the last year is about the relationship between Ladybug Tools and Pollination. I’ll answer the three most frequently asked questions here and wait for your follow-up questions in the comments.
Where is the line between the open-source project and the commercial products?
All the Ladybug Tools Python libraries and the Grasshopper plugins are open-source and available for free. Pollination products are commercial products. Some Pollination products might be free or open source but the default Pollination products are available for a price with a free option.
We have tried hard to ensure that any capability that could make your simulations more accurate is open source and under the Ladybug Tools umbrella. So you should never face a pay barrier to using capabilities of the underlying simulation engines or learning about how your models are translated to these engines. However, any feature that saves time, helps you collaborate, or makes it easier for you to edit and QA/QC your model without the need for scripting is likely to be part of a Pollination product.
If Pollination is using the Ladybug Tools libraries, why doesn’t it follow the AGPL share-alike clause? Can we do the same?
Ladybug Tools LLC controls all the copyrights in the libraries and that means we don’t have to follow the AGPL’s rules for use of that code. All the contributors to the libraries sign a contributor license agreement (CLA) that allows us to do that.
You cannot do the same. If you need to use the Ladybug Tools libraries for a commercial project that is not available under an AGPL license, you need to buy a commercial license from Ladybug Tools LLC.
Is Pollination going to replace Ladybug Tools?
No, there is no plan to make any changes to the Ladybug Tools project besides developing them further. Pollination is built on top of Ladybug Tools and depends on it but it doesn’t replace it. Pollination expands Ladybug Tools capabilities and provides new ways to implement them in projects. It also introduces enterprise-ready products that are stable, accessible, and easier to use.
If nothing else, the commercial success of Pollination guarantees the continued active development of the Ladybug Tools libraries. It is a win-win relationship. For instance, all Ladybug Tools Grasshopper users can use the Pollination Grasshopper single-click installer to install the Ladybug Tools plugin for free! And yes, it does install all the simulation engines including Radiance and OpenStudio.
As for Ladybug Tools, we already released Ladybug Tools for Grasshopper 1.4.0 and we will have at least one more major release before the end of the year. See the release notes for more information. We are also working on a new set of tutorials for Ladybug Tools. They will be released as part of https://docs.ladybug.tools
As for Pollination, we will end the beta testing for each product and start transitioning them to commercial paid products. For some of you who haven’t tried the Pollination products yet, you still have a few weeks to try them in beta. In keeping with our mission of making environmental design knowledge and tools freely accessible to every person, project, and design process, Pollination offers a free starter tier and the Pollination Grasshopper plugin that connects Ladybug Tools to the Pollination ecosystem is available for free.
As always, we count on you to help us improve Ladybug Tools and now Pollination! Please keep the comments coming! If you love what you see, please help us spread the word! Be our ambassadors and introduce Pollination to a larger audience. We appreciate your support and we don’t take having this community for granted.
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Even after all these years, it still feels like we are just getting started. Thank you for your support over the past years and let’s make this 10th year a very special year. Will see you around!
Mostapha on behalf of the team!